By Lacey Vorrasi-Banis
February 08, 2021 at 10:00 AM EST
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Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2); The Innovation Press; Candlewick

As Carrie Fisher famously uttered in When Harry Met Sally, "someone is staring at you in Personal Growth." But if you're a parent, the gawker is likely not the small person in your life who could stand to benefit the most from that bookstore section. While they don't actually make self-help books for little ones, picture books have been doing the heavy lifting for years, laying the foundation for conversation while validating children's feelings and empowering them along the way. Here, EW has compiled some of the best recent releases (and a few you can preorder) to help you help them.

Encouraging emotional literacy

Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Little Unicorn Is… series by Aurélie Chien Chow Chine 

The third and fourth offerings (Little Unicorn Is Sad and Little Unicorn Is Shy) in this adorable series have the same simple yet effective premise: Little Unicorn's rainbow mane changes colors when he's overcome by different emotions. Like the first two books, the advice in both of these more recent installments lies in taking deep, restorative breaths, which may seem basic, but the larger point is to give the younger set both the language and a visual representation of their feelings, as well as an actionable solution. What could be more magical than that?

Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

When children are old enough to do things on their own but are frustrated because they struggle with their nascent abilities, this enchanting picture book introduces them to their limitless potential by way of Yet, that oh-so-important word that encourages them to have patience with themselves as they continue to keep trying.

Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers

The One and Only Dylan St. Claire by Kamen Edwards, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

On the surface this is a lively story about a flamboyant young boy with a flair for the dramatic, but it also teaches readers the wonder that happens when you choose to make lemonade out of lemons, or, as Dylan discovers, a squirrel out of stars.

Credit: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman (available 3/2/21)

If ever there was a time to provide children with the vocabulary to express how they're feeling, that time is now, and the latest offering from the creators of the New York Times best-seller All Are Welcome does just that. As the original class from Welcome collaborates to work through their feelings and toward the common goal of cleaning up a yard, they find that it's both teamwork and emotional validation that make the dream work.

Advocating acceptance and self-love

Credit: The Innovation Press

Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe 

A child's name is one of the most important gifts parents give them, so imagine the heartbreak in hearing your baby lament that neither their teacher nor classmates are willing to devote any effort into learning to properly pronounce it. In this heartrending book, an inspiring mama teaches her daughter to hear the lyrical beauty, fire, and heart in not only her own name but others as well, galvanizing young Kora-Jalimuso to sing out the powerful euphony of her name to everyone at school.

Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Princess Dinosaur by Daniel Kibblesmith, illustrated by Ashley Quach

Whether your princess loves dinosaurs or your dinosaur loves princesses, this Technicolor dream of a book shows it's okay to be both. In the second children's work from this writer-illustrator dynamic duo famed for gleefully subverting holiday institutions (their debut was the sweet and witty Santa's Husband), they deftly tackle gender stereotypes in the form of a prehistoric princess who can host a tea party and jeté just as well as she can scale walls and decimate cities made of blocks.

Making new friends and keeping the old

Credit: Candlewick

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez 

In Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, Newbery medalist Meg Medina and award-winning illustrator Sonia Sánchez poignantly capture the beauty of those precious first friendships. Mejores amigas Evelyn and Daniela are facing the greatest test of their relationship as Evelyn is moving away. They have to say goodbye to secret handshakes, hide-and-seek, and cookies from Señora Flores, but though the physical distance between them grows, their hearts remain close for years to come.

Credit: Neal Porter Books

Daisy by Jessixa Bagley (available 3/2/21)

A darling warthog named Daisy starts to hang her head in shame after she's taunted by her classmates, who deem her unworthy of her floral name. Undeterred, Daisy starts finding discarded and forgotten knickknacks on the ground, items that others might dismiss as useless but to Daisy become invaluable treasures. The little warthog's persistence in making her own fun soon unearths another invaluable treasure: a friend. A moving lesson in resilience and staying true to oneself, Daisy gives readers a good reason to keep their heads held high.

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